Part 5 out of 6
could sing lustily to a guitar, came and sang for her, not the
ribald songs the Quartier heard from him, but the beautiful and soft
love songs he had heard as a child in Andalusia--how love is an
immortal rose one carries through the gates of the grave into the
gates of paradise. And the Quartier, which knows so much sorrow as
well as so much joy, came with its gayest gossip to make her smile.
Peter himself lived in a sort of tormented daze.--It was Denise, his
little Denise, who was going!
Denise herself was the calmest and cheerfulest of them all. Her high
destiny had been to love Peter Champneys, and she had fulfilled it.
The good, the kind God had given her that which in her estimation
outweighed everything else. She had lived, she had loved. Now she
could go, and go content.
"It is better so," she told him, with that piercing good sense of
the French which is like a spiritual insight. "Very dear one,
suppose _I_ had been called upon to let _thee_ go: how could I have
endured that?" And she added, pressing his fingers, "Do not grieve,
my adored Pierre. Observe that I am but a poor little one to whom in
thy goodness of heart thou hast been kind: but thou art all my
life--all of me, Pierre."
He put his head against her side, and she stroked it, whispering,
"I had but a little while to stay, beloved. Because of thee, that
stay has been happy--oh, very, very happy!"
"You have given me all I ever had of youth and love," said Peter.
"Ah, but I am glad!" she said naively. "Because of _that_, I think
you must remember!" She looked at him with her blue eyes suddenly
full of tears. "It is only when I think you may forget that I am
afraid, it is then as if the dark pressed upon me," she said in a
whisper sharp with pain. "I lie still and dream how great you will
become, how much beloved--for who could fail to love you, Pierre?
And I am glad. It rests my heart, which is all yours. But when I
begin to remember how I have been but a little, little part of your
life, who have been all of mine, when I think you may forget, then I
am afraid, I am afraid!" And she looked at him like a frightened
child who is being left alone to go to sleep in the dark.
Peter picked her up, wrapped in the bedquilt, and held her in his
arms. She was very light. It was as if he held a little ghost. She
shook her bright hair over his shoulders and breast, and he hid his
quivering face in it, as in a veil. Presently, in a soft voice:
"Yes, my little sweetheart."
"Very dear and precious godfather,--a long, long time from now, when
_She_ comes, She whom you will love as I love you, tell her about
"Denise, Denise!" cried poor Peter, straining her to him.
"Tell her I had blue eyes, and a fair face, and bright, bright
hair, Godfather. She will like to know. Say, 'Her whole wisdom lay
in loving me with all her heart--that poor Denise!' Then tell her
that she cannot love you more, my Pierre,--but that in my grave I
shall despise her if she dares to love you less."
"I--Oh, my God!" strangled Peter, and he felt as if his heart were
being wrenched out of his breast. He was in his twenties, and the
girl in his arms was all he knew of love.
Some six weeks later Denise died as quietly as she had lived, her
small cold hands clinging to Peter Champneys's, her blue eyes with
their untroubled, loving gaze fixed upon his face. When that beloved
face faded from her the world itself had faded from Denise.
He hadn't dreamed one could suffer as he was called upon to suffer
then. The going of little Denise seemed to have torn away a living
and quivering part of his spirit. She had loved him absolutely, and
Peter couldn't forget that. His gratitude was an anguish. It is not
the duration but the depths of an experience which makes its
ineffaceable impression upon the heart.
Mrs. Hemingway saw his changed looks with concern. If she and her
husband suspected anything, they did not torment him with questions;
they didn't even appear to notice that he was silent and abstracted.
"What on earth is the matter with the boy?" worried Mrs. Hemingway.
"John, do you think it's a--"
"Petticoat? What else should it be?"
"I can't bear to think of Peter getting himself into some sort of
scrape with possibly some miserable woman--who will prey upon him,"
murmured Mrs. Hemingway.
"Peter's not the sort that falls for adventuresses. He might fall in
love with some girl, and be cut up if she didn't reciprocate. That's
what's the matter with him now, if I'm not mistaken."
Hemingway took Peter fishing with him. It is a pleasant place, the
Seine near Poissy. Hemingway let Peter sit in a boat all day, and
didn't seem to observe that the line wasn't once drawn in. The river
was rippling, the sky bright blue, the wind sweet. All around them
were other boats, full of people who appeared to be happy. And
Hemingway's silent companionship was strong and kind and serene.
Insensibly Peter reacted to his surroundings, to the influence of
the shining day. When they were returning to Paris that evening, he
looked at his big compatriot gratefully. Then he told him. Hemingway
listened in silence. Then:
"I'm damned glad she had you," said he, and polished his eyeglasses,
and put his hand on Peter's shoulder with a consoling and
sympathetic touch. Hemingway understood. He was that sort.
Youth departs, love perishes, faith faints; but that we may never be
left hopeless, work remains and saves us. Peter's work came to his
succor. Just at this crucial time his Eminence the Austrian Cardinal
appeared, and Peter hadn't time to mope.
The cardinal had seen the picture of Emma Campbell and her cat. He
had seen an enchanting sketch of the Spanish student in the velvet
coat, recently purchased by a friend of his. And now his own
portrait must be painted. He was so great a cardinal, of so striking
a personality, that his own noble family had an immense pride in
him, and the Vatican, along with certain great temporal powers, took
him very seriously. So the painting of the cardinal's portrait
wouldn't be a light undertaking, to be given at random. This and
that great painter was urged upon him. But the astonishing portrait
of that old colored woman and her cat decided his Eminence, who had
a will of his own. Here was his artist! Also, he insisted upon the
The anticlerical press of Paris was insisting that the cardinal's
stay in the French capital was of sinister import. The cardinal
smiled, and Peter Champneys besought his gods to let him get that
smile on canvas. His Eminence was an ideal sitter. He spoke English
beautifully, and it pleased him to converse with the lanky young
American painter in his mother tongue. He felt drawn to the young
man, and when the cardinal liked one, he was irresistible. Peter was
so fascinated by this brilliant and versatile aristocrat, so deeply
interested in the psychology of a great Roman prelate, a prince of
the Church, that he forgot everything except that he was a creative
artist--and a great sitter, a man worthy of his best, was to be
He gave his whole heart to his task, and he brought to it a new
sense of values, born of suffering. When he had finished, you could
see the cardinal's soul looking at you from the canvas. The smile
Peter prayed to catch curves his lips, a smile that baffles and
enchants. He wears his red robes, and one fine, aristocratic hand
with the churchly ring on it rests upon the magnificent cat lying on
the table beside him. That superb "Cardinal with the Cat" put the
seal upon Peter Champneys's reputation as a great artist.
He knew what he had achieved. Yet his lips quivered and his eyes
were smileless when, down in the left-hand corner, he painted in the
THE OTHER MAN
In Florence the nascent swan-feathers of Anne Champneys grew into
perfect plumage. She was like a spirit new-born to another world,
with all the dun-colored ties of a darker existence swept away, and
only a residue of thought and feeling left of its former experience.
This bright and rosy world, enriched by nature and art, was so new,
its values were so different, that at first she was dazed into
dumbness by it.
She came face to face with beauty and art made a part of daily
life. She thought she had never seen color, or flowers, or even a
real sky, until now. An existence unimaginably rich, vistas that
receded into an almost fabled past, opened and spread before her
glamourously. The vividness of her impressions, her reaction to
this new phase of experience, the whole-souled ardor with which
she flung herself into the study of Italian, her eagerness to know
more, her delight in the fine old house in which they had set up
their household gods, amused and charmed Mrs. Vandervelde. She
felt as if she were teaching and training an unspoiled, delighted,
and delightful child, and contact with this fresh and eager spirit
stimulated her own.
Many of her former school friends, girls belonging to fine
Florentine families, some now noble matrons, mothers of families,
one or two great conventual superioresses, still resided in the
city, and these welcomed their beloved Marcia delightedly. There
were, too, the American and English colonies, and a coterie of
well-known artists. Marcia Vandervelde was a born hostess, a center
around which the brightest and cleverest naturally revolved. She
changed the large, drafty rooms of the old palace into charming
reflections of her own personality. A woman of wide sympathies and
cultivated tastes, she delighted in the clever cosmopolitan society
that gathered in her drawing-room; and it was in this opalescent
social sea that she launched young Mrs. Champneys.
Mrs. Champneys was at first but a mild success, a sort of pale
luminosity reflected from the more dominant Mrs. Vandervelde. But it
so happened, that a gifted young Italian lost his heart at sight to
her red hair and green eyes, and discovering that she had no heart
of her own--at least, none for him--he wrote, in a sort of frenzy of
inspiration, a very fine sonnet sequence narrating his hapless
passion. The poet had been as extravagantly assertive as poets in
love usually are, and the sonnets were really notable; so the young
man was swept into a gust of fame; all Italy read his verse and
sympathized with him. The object of a popular poet's romantic and
unfortunate love is always the object of curiosity and interest, as
Anne Champneys discovered to her surprise and annoyance.
"He was such a little idiot!" she told Marcia Vandervelde,
disgustedly. "Always sighing and rolling his eyes, and looking at
one like a sick calf,--more than once I was tempted to catch him by
the shoulders and shake him!"
"He's a poet, my child," said Mrs. Vandervelde, mischievously, "and
you're the lady in the case. It's been the making of him, and it
hasn't done you any harm: you'll be a legend in your own lifetime."
Marcia was quite right. The poet's love clung to Anne like an
intangible perfume, and a halo of romance encircled her red head.
The Florentines discovered that she was beautiful; the English and
Americans, cooler in judgment, found her charming. And a noted
German artist came along and declared that he had found in her his
Mrs. Peter remained unchanged and unimpressed. She shrugged
indifferent shoulders; she wasn't particularly interested in herself
as the object of poetic adoration.
She was, however, immensely interested in the beauty and romance of
Florence. The street crowds, so vivacious, so good-humored, the
vivid Florentine faces, enchanted her. More astonishing than storied
buildings, or even imperishable art, were the figures that moved
across the red-and-gold background of the city's history,--figures
like Dante, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and that great prior of San
Marco whose "soul went out in fire." Curiously enough, it was
Savonarola who made the most profound impression upon her. It seemed
to her that the immortal monk still dominated Florence, and when
she saw his old worn crucifix in his cell at San Marco, something
awoke in her spirit,--a sense of religious values. Religion, then,
was not a mere fixed convention, subscribed to as a sort of proof of
conservatism and respectability; religion was really a fixed
reality, an eternal power. She read everything that she could lay
her hands on covering the history of Fra Girolamo. Then she bought a
picture of his red Indian-like visage, and hung it up in her room.
The titanic reformer remained, a shadowy but very deep power, in the
background of her consciousness, and it was this long-dead preacher
who taught her to pray. He won her profoundest reverence and faith,
because he had been true, he had sealed his faith with his life; she
felt that she could trust him. His honesty appealed to her own.
It was such curious phases as this of the girl's unfolding
character, that made her a never-failing source of interest to
Marcia Vandervelde. Under her superimposed, surface indifference,
Marcia reflected, Anne had a deep strain of pure unworldliness, vast
possibilities. Give Anne an ideal, once arouse her enthusiasm, and
she was capable of tossing aside the world for it. Marcia was vastly
interested, too, in the serene detachment of the girl's attitude
toward all those with whom she came in contact. One might evoke
interest, sympathy, compassion, even a quiet friendliness, but her
heart remained quiet, aloof, secure from invasion. Handsome young
men who fell in love with her--and there were several such--seemed
unable to stir any emotion in her, except perhaps, an impatient
resentment. Marcia, of course, knew nothing of Glenn Mitchell. But
Anne Champneys remembered him poignantly. She had learned her
They had been some six or eight months in Florence when Mr. Berkeley
Hayden put in his appearance, somewhat to Mrs. Vandervelde's
surprise. She had not expected this! She studied her old friend
speculatively. H'm! She remembered the pale face of the young
Italian poet whose sad sonnets all Italy was reading with delight.
Then she looked at the red-headed source of those sonnets,--and she
had no doubt as to the cause of Mr. Hayden's appearance in Florence
at this time,--and wondered a bit. The situation gave a fillip to
her imagination; it was piquant. One wondered how it would end.
Peter Champneys? Marcia scented disruption, where that impalpable
relationship was concerned. She was ignorant as to Anne's real
feelings and intentions in regard to her absentee husband. Anne
never mentioned him. She bore his name, she held herself rigidly
aloof from all lovers; herein one saw her sole concessions to the
tie binding her. Marcia didn't see how it was possible that the two
should avoid hating each other; the mere fact that they had been
arbitrarily forced upon each other by the imperious will of old
Chadwick, would inevitably militate against any hope of future
affection between them. And now here was Berkeley Hayden, quite as
imperious as Chadwick Champneys had ever been, and who was quite as
successful in getting what he wanted.
Anne had welcomed Mr. Hayden gladly. She was honestly delighted to
see him. Florence had taught her, signally, the depths of her own
lack of culture, and this biting knowledge increased her respect for
Mr. Berkeley Hayden. Marcia was immensely clever, charmingly
cultivated, a woman of the world in the best sense, but Anne's
native shrewdness told her that Marcia's knowledge was not equal to
Hayden's. His culture was surer and deeper. He was more than a mere
amateur; he _knew_. He stood apart, in her mind, and just a little
higher than anybody else. She turned to him eagerly, and there was
established between them, almost unconsciously, the most potent,
perfect, and dangerous of all relationships, because it is the most
beautiful and natural,--that, in which the man is the teacher and
the woman the pupil.
Hayden saw her, too, to greater advantage, here under this
Florentine sky, against the background of perhaps the most beautiful
city in the world. She glowed, splendidly young and vivid. She did
not laugh often, but when she did, it was like a peal of music; it
came straight from her heart and went direct to yours. It was as
catching as fire, as exhilarating as the chime of sleigh-bells on a
frosty Thanksgiving morning, as clear and true as a redbird's
whistle; and it had tucked away in it a funny, throaty chuckle so
irresistibly infectious that suspicious old St. Anthony himself,
would have joined in accord with it, had he heard its silver echo
in his wilderness. Berkeley Hayden's immortal soul stood on the
tiptoe of ecstasy when Anne Champneys laughed.
She no longer thought of herself as Nancy Simms; she knew herself
now as Anne Champneys, a newer and better personality dominating
that old, unhappy, ignorant self. If at times the man glimpsed that
other shadowy self of hers, it was part of her mysterious appeal,
her enthralling, baffling charm. It invested her with a shade of
inscrutable, prescient sorrow, as of old unhappy far-off things. He
hadn't the faintest idea of Nancy Simms, a creature utterly foreign
to his experience. And because she did not love him, Anne Champneys
never spoke of that old self, never confided in him. He did not know
her as she had been, he only knew her as she was now. That, however,
fully satisfied his critical taste. The marvel of her alabaster
skin, fleckless and flawless, the glory of her glittering red hair,
the sea-depths of her cool, gray-green eyes, the reserve of her
expression, the virginal curve of her lip, enchanted him. He liked
the tall, slender strength of her, the lightness of her step, her
grace when she danced, her spirited pose when she rode. Here was the
woman, the one woman, to bear his name, to be the mistress of his
house. She was the only woman he had ever really wished to marry.
And she was nominally married to Peter Champneys.
Hayden was honorable. Had hers been a real marriage, had she been a
happy wife, he would have respected the tie that bound her, and
gone his way. But the situation was exceptional. She wasn't really a
wife at all, and like Mrs. Vandervelde, he could see in such a
marriage nothing but a cause for mutual disgust and dislike. Well,
then, if he loved her, and Peter Champneys didn't, he certainly was
not working Peter Champneys any harm in winning away from him a wife
he didn't want. Why should he stand aside and let her go, for such a
shadow as that ceremony had been? The Champneys money? That meant
nothing weighed in the balance with his desire. He could give her as
much, and more, than she would forego. Mrs. Berkeley Hayden would
eclipse Mrs. Peter Champneys.
Deliberately, then, but delicately, after his fashion, Hayden set
himself to win Anne Champneys. He felt that his passion for her gave
him the right. He meant to make her happy. She could have her
marriage annulled. Then she would become Mrs. Berkeley Hayden. Even
the fact that he really knew very little about her did not trouble
him. He coveted her, and he meant to have her.
He read the young Italian's sonnets, which she had inspired, and
they made him thoughtful. He could readily understand the depths of
feeling such a woman could arouse. Had she no heart, as the Italian
lamented? He wondered. It came to him that she was, in truth,
detached, sufficient to herself, an ungregarious creature moving
solitarily in a mysterious world all her own. What did she think?
What did she feel? He didn't know. He was allowed to see certain
aspects of her intelligence, and her quickness of perception, the
delicacy of her fancy, her childlike and morning freshness, and a
pungently shrewd Americanism that flashed out at odd and unexpected
moments, never failed to delight him. But her deeper thoughts, her
real feelings, her heart, remained sealed and closed to him.
He saw half-pleasedly, half-jealously the interest she aroused in
other men. Nothing but her almost unbelievable indifference held his
jealousy in check. He reflected with satisfaction that she was
on a friendlier footing with him than with any other man of her
acquaintance, that she had a more instant welcome for him than for
any other, and for which cause he was cordially hated by several
otherwise amiable gentlemen. And then he waxed gloomy, remembering
how emotionless, how impersonal, that friendship really was. At
times he laughed at himself wryly, recalling the passionate
friendship other women had lavished upon him, and how wearisome it
had been to him, how he had wished to escape it. If but a modicum of
that passion had been bestowed upon him by this girl, how changed
the world would be for him!
And in the meantime Anne Champneys liked him serenely, was grateful
to him, aware that his intellect was as a key that was unlocking her
own; welcomed him openly and was maddeningly respectful to him. This
made him rage. What did she think he was, anyhow? An old professor,
an antiquarian, an archaeologist? She might as well consider him an
antediluvian at once!
"Marcia," he said to Mrs. Vandervelde one evening, "I want you to
tell me all you know about this Champneys business. Just exactly how
does the affair stand?" Anne had been carried off by some American
friends, the smart throng that had filled Mrs. Vandervelde's rooms
had gone, and Hayden and his hostess had the big, softly lighted
drawing-room to themselves. At his query Mrs. Vandervelde turned in
her chair, shading her eyes with her hand the better to observe him.
"Why, you know as much as I do, Berkeley! You know how and why the
marriage was contracted, and what hinges upon it," said she,
He made an impatient gesture. "I want to know what she's going to
do. Surely she isn't going to allow herself to be bound by that old
lunatic's will, is she?"
"He wasn't an old lunatic; he was an old genius. Jason had an almost
superstitious reverence for his judgment. Somehow, his plans always
managed to come out all right,--in the end. Even when they seemed
wild, they came out all right. They're still coming out all right."
"And you think this insane marriage is likely to come out all right
in the end, too?" he asked sharply.
"I don't know. Stranger things have happened. Why shouldn't this?"
"Why should it? That fellow Champneys--"
"Is said to be a great painter. At least, he is certainly a very
successful one. Whether or not he can make good as Anne Champneys's
husband remains to be seen." Mrs. Vandervelde was not above the
innate feminine cattiness. Hayden rose abruptly and began to pace
the room. He was vaguely aware that he had been astrally scratched
across the nose.
"And you think a girl like Anne will be willing to play patient
Griselda?" he asked, scornfully.
"I don't know. You think she shouldn't?"
"I think she shouldn't. I tell you frankly he doesn't deserve it."
"Oh, as for that!" said Mrs. Vandervelde, airily.
Hayden paused in his restless walk, and looked at her earnestly.
"Berkeley," said she, changing her light tone, "am I to understand
that you are--really in earnest?"
"I am so much in earnest," he replied, deliberately, "that I do not
mind telling you, Marcia, that I want this girl. More, I mean to
have her, if I can make her care for me."
She considered this carefully. He had never known what it meant to
have his wishes thwarted, and now he would move heaven and earth to
win Anne Champneys. Well, but!--She liked Hayden, and she didn't
think, all things considered, that Anne Champneys could do better,
if she wished to have her marriage to Peter annulled, than to marry
Berkeley. But how would Jason consider such a move? Jason had been
greatly attached to old Mr. Champneys. Indeed, his connection with
that astute old wizard had just about doubled their income. Jason
wouldn't be likely to look with friendly eyes upon this bringing to
naught, what he knew had been Champneys's fondest scheme. She said,
after a pause:
"Does Anne know?"
"Who knows what Anne knows? But on the face of it, I should say
she doesn't. At least, she doesn't appear to. I have been
very--circumspect," said he, moodily. And he added angrily: "She
seems to regard me as a sort of cicerone, a perambulating, vocal
Mrs. Vandervelde smiled openly. "It is your surest hold upon her. I
shouldn't cavil at it, if I were you. To Anne you are the sum total
of human knowledge. Your dictum is the last word to be said about
But Berkeley still looked sulky. The idea of being what Sydney Smith
said Macaulay was--_a book in breeches_--didn't appeal to him at
"What would you advise me to do?" he asked, after a pause.
She said reflectively: "Let her alone for a while, Berkeley. If her
liking for you grows naturally into affection,--and it may, you
know,--that would be best. If you try to force it, you may drive her
from you altogether. I tell you frankly, she is not in the least
interested in any man as a lover, so far as I can judge."
He was forced to admit the truth of this. She wasn't. She seemed to
dislike any faintest sign of loverliness from any man toward her.
Hayden had observed her icy attitude toward the painter who had
fancied he found in her his ideal Undine, and who showed too openly
his desire to help her gain a soul for herself. The idea that she
might look at him as she had looked at the painter was highly
unpleasant to him. He asked again:
"But what am I to do?"
"Nothing," said Mrs. Vandervelde, succinctly.
"But suppose she falls in love with somebody else."
"She is more likely to fall in love with you, I should imagine, if
you keep quiet for a while and allow her to do so. Just remain her
guide, philosopher, and friend, can't you?"
The clever, cosmopolitan Mr. Berkeley Hayden tugged at his short
mustache and looked astonishingly like a sulky school-boy.
"Well, if you think that's the best thing I can do--" he began.
"I know it is," said she. And she reflected that even the cleverest
man, when he is really in love, is something of a fool.
Here Anne herself came in and the three dined together, a statuesque
maid in a yellow bodice and a purple skirt waiting on them. Agata's
"Si?" was like a flute-note, and the two women loved to see her
moving about their rooms. It was like having Hebe wait on them.
Anne turned to Hayden eagerly. She wished his opinion of a piece of
tapestry an antiquarian in the Via Ricasoli wished to sell her.
Would he go and look at it with her? And there was an old lamp she
fancied but of the genuineness of which she wasn't sure. And she
added, dropping her voice, that she'd gotten a copy of one of Fra
Girolamo Savonarola's sermons, beautifully done on vellum, evidently
by some loving monkish follower of his. Didn't he want to see it?
She looked at him eagerly. Mrs. Vandervelde, catching his eye,
Hayden played his part beautifully, concealing the tumult of his
feelings under the polished surface of the serene manner that Anne
so greatly admired. He made himself indispensable; he gave her his
best, unstintedly, and Hayden at his best was inimitable. Marcia
Vandervelde regarded him with new respect and admiration. Berkeley
was really wonderful!
When he took his departure, Anne Champneys felt that the glamour of
Florence had departed with him. It was as if the sunshine had been
withdrawn, along with that polished presence, that gem-like mind.
She missed him to an extent that astonished her. She thought that
even Giotto's Campanile looked bleak, the day Berkeley Hayden left.
"I'm going to miss you hideously," she told him truthfully.
"I hope so," he said guardedly. He did not wish to show too plainly
how overjoyed he was at that admission. "And I'm going to hope
you'll find me necessary in New York. I'm looking forward to seeing
you in New York, you know. I have two new pictures I want you to
Her face brightened. "Your being there will make me glad to go back
to New York," she said happily. And Hayden had to resist a wild
impulse to shout, to catch her in his arms. He went away with hope
in his heart.
But Mrs. Vandervelde, watching her closely, thought she was too
open in her regret. N-no, Anne wasn't in love with Hayden--yet. She
picked up her studies, to which he had given impetus, with too
hearty a zest. And when he wrote her amusing, witty, delightful
letters, she was too willing to have Marcia read them.
They remained in Italy six months or so more; and then one day Anne
returned from a picnic, and said to Marcia abruptly:
"Would you mind if I asked you to leave Florence,--if I should want
to go home?"
Marcia said quietly: "No. If you wish to go, we will go. Are you
tired of Italy?"
Anne Champneys looked at her with wide eyes. For a moment she
hesitated, then ran to Marcia, and clung to her with her head
against her friend's shoulder.
"You're so good to me--and I care so much for you,--I'll tell you
the truth," she said in a whisper. "I--I heard something to-day,
Marcia,--_he's_ coming to Rome--soon. And of course he'll come here,
"Peter Champneys," said Peter's wife, and literally shook in her
shoes. Her clasp tightened. Marcia put her arms around her, and
felt, to her surprise, that Anne was frightened.
"You are sure?"
"Yes. I heard it accidentally, but I am sure. You know how pretty
the Arno is at the spot where we picnicked. We strolled about, and
I--didn't want to talk to anybody, so I slipped away by myself.
There were a couple of English artists painting near by, and just as
I came up I overheard what they were saying. Marcia,--they were
talking about--_him_. They said he'd been called to Rome to paint
somebody's picture,--the pope's, maybe,--and they'd probably see him
here, later. They seemed to be--friends of his, from the way they
spoke." She shivered. "Italy isn't big enough to hold us two!" she
said, desperately. "Marcia, I can't--run the risk of meeting Peter
Champneys. Not until I have to. I--I've got to get away!" Her voice
"All right, dear. We'll go," said Marcia, soothingly. "Jason's about
finished his work in Brazil, and he'll be back in New York by this.
Do you want to go directly home?"
"Yes," said Anne Champneys. "Italy's a very little place compared
with America. Let's go back to America, Marcia."
Mrs. Vandervelde stroked the red head. It seemed to her that fate
was playing into Mr. Berkeley Hayden's hands.
Although the Champneys house was tightly closed, with the upper door
and windows boarded up, the blonde person in shoddy fineries rang
the area bell on the chance that there must be a caretaker somewhere
about the premises. She felt that when one has come upon such an
errand as hers, one mustn't leave any stone unturned; and she
couldn't trust to a haphazard letter. An impassive and immaculate
Japanese opened the door, and stood looking at her without any
expression at all. Had the blonde person baldly stated her errand,
the Japanese would probably have closed the door and that would have
been the end of it. But she didn't speak; after a sharp glance at
him she opened her gay hand-bag, extracted a slip of paper, handed
it to him, and stood waiting.
The Japanese read: "I wish you'd do what you can, for my sake," and
saw that it was addressed to Mr. Chadwick Champneys and signed by
Mr. Peter Champneys. It had evidently been carefully kept, and for a
long time, as the creases showed. The Japanese stood reflecting for
a few moments, then beckoned the blonde person inside the house,
ushering her into a very neat basement sitting-room.
"For you?" he asked, glancing at the slip of paper.
"Me? No. I come for a lady friend o' mine. You might tell 'em she's
awful sick an' scared,--just about all in, she is,--or she wouldn't
of sent. But he said she was to come here an' hand in that slip I've
just gave you. That's how I come to bring it."
"All right. You wait," said the Japanese, and glided from the room.
It was the first time Hoichi had received any message from the new
master, as he knew Mr. Peter Champneys to be; if the message was
genuine, he was sure that Mr. Chadwick Champneys, had he been alive,
would have investigated it. Hoichi couldn't imagine how the blonde
person had gotten hold of such a slip of paper, signed by Mr. Peter
Champneys. If there was some trick behind it, some ulterior motive
underlying it, then Hoichi proposed to have the trickster taught a
needed lesson. He was a suspicious man and visions of clever robbers
planning a raid on the premises rose before him. He would run no
risks, take no chances. He rang up Mr. Jason Vandervelde,
fortunately caught the lawyer at home, and faithfully repeated the
blonde person's message. He insisted that the signature was genuine;
he had seen many letters addressed to the late Mr. Champneys by his
nephew, and he would recognize that writing anywhere. He asked to be
"Tell her to wait half an hour and I'll be there," said the lawyer
The blonde person was leaning back in a Morris chair, tiredly, when
Vandervelde was ushered into the basement sitting-room. He
recognized her type with something of a shock. She was what might be
called--charitably--a peripatetic person, and she reeked of very
strong perfume. The lawyer's eyes narrowed, while he explained
briefly that he represented the Champneys interests. Would she
explain as concisely as possible just why and for whom she had come?
She explained ramblingly. Mr. Vandervelde gathered that a certain
"lady friend" of hers, one Gracie Cantrell, now in the hospital,
said her prayers to Mr. Peter Champneys, whom she had met on a time,
and who had advised her if ever she needed help to apply to his
uncle, and to tell him that he had sent her. Feeling herself _down
and out_ now, she had done so.
"Honest to Gawd, the poor little simp thinks this feller's a angel.
Why,--when she gets out o' her head, she don't rave about nothin'
but him, beggin' him to help her. Ain't it somethin' fierce,
though?" The blonde person dabbed at her eyes with a scented
Mr. Vandervelde rubbed his nose thoughtfully. A girl down and out, a
waif in a city ward, in her delirium calling upon Peter Champneys
for help, didn't sound at all good to him. In connection with that
penciled slip which seemed to imply that she had a right to expect
help, it smacked of possible heart-interest--sob-stuff--so dear to
enterprising special writers for a yellow press. He couldn't
understand how or where Peter had met the girl; possibly some
youthful foolishness back there in Carolina. Maybe she'd followed
him north, to become what her friendship with such as the blonde
person indicated. Vandervelde was a cautious man and he thought he
had better investigate that message, written before Chadwick
"My car's outside," he told the blonde person briefly. "We'll see
this Gracie at once and find out just what's to be done."
It was past the hour for visitors, but Vandervelde's card procured
them admittance to the ward where Gracie lay. At sight of the
big-eyed, white-faced, wasted little creature who looked at him with
such a frightened and beseeching stare, Vandervelde's suspicions of
her died. No matter what she had been,--and the house-physician's
brief comment on her case left him in no doubt,--this poor wrecked
bit of humanity beached upon the bleak shore of a charity ward was
harmless. He absolved her of all evil intent, of any desire to
obtain anything under false pretenses. He even absolved the blonde
person, who despite her brassy hair, her hectic face, had of a
sudden become a kind, gentle, and soothing presence. "Well, dearie,
you got a straight tip from that feller. All I had to do was to show
that piece o' paper he give you, and this kind gent'man come right
off to see you," said the blonde cheerfully. "An' now maybe he'll be
wantin' to talk with you, so I'll leave you be. Good night, dearie,"
and she stepped away quietly, a trail of perfume in her wake, so
that Vandervelde's nose involuntarily wrinkled.
Gracie lay and looked at her visitor.
"You ain't his uncle. You don't look nothin' at all like him," said
"No. His uncle is dead. I'm the lawyer who has the estate in charge.
So you can tell me just exactly what you know about Mr. Peter
Champneys, and then tell me what I can do for you."
He spoke so kindly that Gracie's spirits revived. She told him just
exactly what she knew about Mr. Peter Champneys, which of course was
very, very little. Yet this much was luminously clear: of all the
men Gracie had ever encountered, of all her experiences, Peter
Champneys and the hour he had sat and talked with her stood out
clearest, clean, touched with a soft and pure light, a solitary
sweet remembrance in a sodden and sordid existence.
"Like a angel, he was. I never seen nobody with such a way o'
lookin' at you. Never pretended he didn't understand, but treated me
like a lady. I couldn't never forget him. I kep' the piece o' paper
he give me, mostly because it was somethin' belongin' to him an' it
sort o' proved I hadn't dreamed him. I never meant to ask for no
help--but when I come here--an' there wasn't nothin' else to do, I
kep' rememberin' he said I was to go to his uncle an' say he'd sent
me. I--I'm scared! My Gawd!--I'm scared!"
He remembered once seeing a trapped rabbit die of sheer terror. This
girl, trapped by the inevitable, reminded him unpleasantly of the
rabbit. His kind heart contracted. He asked gently:
"What is it you are so afraid of, Gracie? Try to tell me just what
you want me to do for you." Perspiration appeared upon her forehead.
She clutched him with a skeleton hand.
"I'm scared o' bein' cut up!" she whispered fearfully. "Oh, for
Gawdsake, save me from bein' cut up!" Her eyes widened; in her thin
breast you could see her laboring heart thumping. "I want you keep
'em from cuttin' me up!" she repeated feverishly.
"Cutting you up!" Vandervelde looked at her wonderingly.
"Yes. I heard 'em say I didn't have no chanst. They put you in the
morgue--afterward--when you're folks like me, and then the doctors
come and get you and cut you up. I don't want to be cut up! For
Christ's sake, don't you let 'em cut me up!"
Vandervelde felt a sort of sick horror. He couldn't quite understand
Gracie's psychology; her unreasoning, ignorant terror.
"Why, my poor girl, what a notion! You--" he stammered.
"I been treated bad enough alive without bein' cut up when I'm
dead," said she, interrupting him. "I get to thinkin' about it,
wakin' up here in the night. He said his folks'd help me if I asked
"Of course, of course! Certainly we'll help!" said Vandervelde
"If I had any money saved up, 't wouldn't be so bad. But I ain't. We
never do. I--I been sick a long time. What clothes I had they kep'
against the rent I was owin', when they told me to get out. An' I
walked an' walked,--an' then one o' them cops in Central Park, he
seen me, an' next thing I knew I was here."
She was getting hysterical, and he saw that it was quite useless to
try to reason with her; the one way to allay her terror was to make
the promise she implored.
"Well, now that your message has reached us, Gracie, you need not be
afraid any more, because what you fear won't happen; it can't
happen. There!--Put it out of your mind."
She stared at him intently, and decided that this large, fair man
was one to be implicitly trusted.
"You bein' one o' his people, if you say it won't happen, then it
won't happen," she told him, and fetched a great sight of relief.
"Oh! I was that scared I 'most died! I--I just naturally can't bear
the idea o' bein' turned over to them doctors." And she shuddered.
"Well, now that you're satisfied you won't be, suppose you tell me
something more immediate that I can do for you. Isn't there
something you'd like?"
"I'd like it most of anything if you'd tell me somethin' about
_him_," she said timidly. "I know I got no right to ast, me bein'
what I am," she added, apologetically. "You see, nobody ever behaved
to me like he did, an' I can't forget him."
She looked so pathetically eager, her look was so humble, that
Vandervelde couldn't find it in his heart to deny the request. He
found himself telling her that Peter Champneys had become a great
painter, that he had never returned to America, and that his wife
also was abroad.
"Is the lady he's married to as nice as him? I sure hope she's good
enough for him," was Gracie's comment.
Seeing how mortally weak she was, Vandervelde took his departure,
promising to see her again. He had a further interview with the
house-physician and the head nurse. Whatever could be done for her
would be done, but they had handled too many Gracies to be
optimistic about this particular one. They knew how quickly these
gutter-candles flicker out.
Commonplace as the girl was, she managed to win Vandervelde's
interest and sympathy. That she had won young Peter Champneys's
didn't surprise him. He was glad that she had had that one
disinterested and kindly deed to look back to. The boy's quixotic
behavior brought a smile to the lawyer's lips. Fancy his wishing to
send such a girl to his uncle and being sure that old Chadwick
wouldn't misunderstand! Gracie cast a new light upon Peter
Champneys, and a very likable one. Vandervelde had seen in the uncle
something of that same unworldliness that the nephew displayed, and
it had established the human equation between Peter and the shrewd
Busy as he was, he managed to see Gracie again. She had refused to
be put into a private room; she preferred the ward.
"It's not fittin'," she said. "Anyhow, I don't want to stay by
myself. When I wake up at night I want to feel people around
me,--even sick people's better than nobody. It's sort o' comfortin'
to have comp'ny," and she stayed in the ward, sharing with less
fortunate ones the fruit and flowers Vandervelde had sent to her.
Once the gripping fear that had obsessed her had been dispelled,
once she was sure of a protecting kindness that might be relied
upon, she proved a gay little body. As the blonde person said,
Gracie wasn't a bad sort at all. As a matter of fact, neither was
the blonde person. Vandervelde saw that, and it troubled his
complacent satisfaction with things. He saw in the waste of these
women an effect of that fatally unmoral energy ironically called
modern civilization. He wondered how Marcia, or Peter's wife, would
react to Gracie. Should he tell them about her? N-no, he rather
Marcia had cabled that she and Anne were leaving Italy--were, in
fact, on their way home. During his wife's absence he had had to
make two or three South American trips, to safeguard certain
valuable Champneys interests. The trips had been highly successful
and interesting, and he hadn't disliked them, but Vandervelde was
incurably domestic; he liked Marcia at the household helm.
"I wanted to hire half a dozen brass-bands to meet you," he told his
wife the morning of her arrival, and kissed her brazenly. "Marcia,
you are prettier than ever! As for Anne--" At sight of Anne
Champneys his eyes widened.
"Why, Anne!--Why Anne!" He took off his glasses, polished them, and
stared at his ward. Marcia smiled the pleased smile of the artist
whose work is being appreciated by a competent critic. She was
immensely proud of the tall fair girl, so poised, so serene, so
"As a target for the human eye," said Vandervelde, fervently,
"you're more than a success: you're a riot!"
Anne slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. "I'm glad you like
me," said she, frankly. "It's so nice when the right people like
Hayden was not in town. He didn't, as a matter of fact, know that
they had left Italy, for Anne's last letter had said nothing of any
intention to return to America shortly. Anne felt curiously
disappointed that he wasn't at the pier with Jason to meet them. She
was surprised at her own eagerness to see him. He pleased her more
than any man she had ever met, and her impatience grew with his
Marcia, a born general, was already planning with masterly attention
to details the social career of Mrs. Peter Champneys. With the
forces that she could command, the immense power that Berkeley
Hayden would swing in her favor, and the Champneys money, that
career promised to be unusually brilliant, when one considered Anne
The Champneys house was to be reopened. In the main, as Chadwick
Champneys had planned it, it pleased Marcia's critical taste. Anne
herself appreciated as she had been unable to do when she first came
to it. She liked its fine Aubusson carpets, its lovely old rosewood
and mahogany furniture, its uncluttered stateliness. But there were
certain changes and improvements she wished made, and she took a
businesslike pleasure in supervising the carrying out of her orders.
The portrait of Mr. Chadwick Champneys, painted the year before his
death hung over the library mantel and seemed to watch her
thoughtfully, critically, with its fine brown eyes. The girl he had
snatched from obscure slavery liked to study the visage of the old
monomaniac who had been the god in the machine of her existence. Her
judgment of him now was clear-eyed but cold. He had been liberal
because it fell in with his plans. He had never been loving.
She was sitting in the library one morning, looking up at him rather
somberly. Workmen came and went, and somewhere in the back regions a
hammer kept up a steady tapping.
"Mr. Hayden," said Hoichi, as he ushered that gentleman into the
She turned her head and looked at him for a full moment, before
rising to greet him: one of Anne Champneys's long, still, mysterious
looks, that made his heart feel as if it were a candle, blown and
shaken by the wind. Then she smiled and held out her hand. It was
good to see him again! She was prouder of his friendship than of
anything that had yet come to her. It gave her a sense of security,
raised her in her own estimation.
She explained, eagerly, the changes and improvements she was
planning, and he went over the house with her. He liked it as Marcia
liked it; once or twice he offered suggestions; the relationship of
pupil and master was at once resumed,--but this time the pupil was
Then he took her out to lunch. It was with difficulty that he
restrained the exuberant delight he felt; just to have her with him
went to his head. "Marcia's advice was wise, but my behavior's going
to be otherwise, if I don't keep a tight hold upon myself," he told
He jealously watched her social progress, and he contributed not a
little toward it. He had a sense of proprietorship in her, and he
did not mean that she should be just one among many; he wished her
to be a great luminary around which lesser lights revolved. Under
Marcia Vandervelde's wing, then, Mrs. Peter Champneys was launched,
and from the very first she was a success. She played her part
beautifully, though she was curiously apathetic about her triumphs.
The incense of adulation did not make as sweet an odor in her
nostrils as one might have supposed. Anne Champneys was oddly
lacking in personal vanity, and she retained her sense of values,
she was able to see things in their just proportions. That she had
created a sensation didn't turn her red head. But she had a feeling
that she had, in a sense, kept her word to Chadwick Champneys,
discharged part of her debt. This was what he had wished her to
accomplish. Very well, she had accomplished it. She was glad. But
she sensed a certain hollowness under it all. Sometimes, alone in
her room, she would stand and look long and earnestly at the red
Indian face of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, brought from Florence and
now hanging on her wall. That room had changed. It was plain and
simple, almost austere; the "honest monk" who had died in the fire,
and the wooden crucifix under him, seemed to dominate it. That
treasure of a maid whom Marcia had secured for her, secretly sniffed
at Mrs. Champneys's bed-chamber. She couldn't understand it. It
wasn't in keeping with the rest of the house. For, it was a
brilliant house, as the home of an exceedingly fashionable, wealthy,
and handsome woman should be.
Anne bore the name of Champneys like a conquering banner. What had
happened on a smaller scale in Florence, happened on a large scale
here at home. Something of the Champneys story had crept out,--the
early marriage, which had kept all the wealth in the family; the
departure of the bridegroom to become an artist, and the fact that
he had really become a noted one. The halo of romance encircled her
head. She was considered beautiful and clever, and the glamour of
much money added to the impression she created; but she was also
considered cold, inaccessible, and perhaps, as the Italian had said,
without a heart. She became, as Marcia had laughingly predicted, a
legend in her own lifetime.
Jason Vandervelde watched her speculatively. He adored Anne, and he
hoped she wasn't going to be spoiled by all the pother made over
her. And he watched with a growing concern Berkeley Hayden's quiet,
persistent, deliberate pursuit of her. Jason wasn't under any
illusions about the Champneys marriage, but he had, as his wife
said, an almost superstitious respect for Chadwick Champneys, and
that marriage had been the old man's darling plan. It was upon that
he had builded, and Vandervelde hated to see that plan brought to
naught. Anne wouldn't really lose, of course,--Hayden could give her
as much as she might forego,--but Vandervelde somehow didn't relish
the idea. That girl Gracie, lingering on in the hospital ward, had
brought the real Peter Champneys poignantly close to his trustee. He
couldn't help thinking that if Anne could know that real Peter,
there might be a hope that old Chadwick's judgment would be once
more vindicated. At the same time, he cared a great deal for
Berkeley Hayden, and the latter wanted Anne. And when Hayden wanted
anything, he generally got it. What Anne herself thought, or what
she might know, he couldn't determine. And Marcia, when he ventured
to speak to her about the matter, said cryptically:
"Why worry? What is to be, will be. Kismet, Jason, kismet!"
* * * * *
On a certain afternoon the house-physician telephoned Mr.
Vandervelde that the girl Gracie was very low, and that she had
asked for him. Vandervelde finished the letter he was dictating to
his secretary, gave a few further instructions to that faithful
animal, and had himself driven to the hospital. He couldn't explain
his feelings where Gracie was concerned. There was something to
blame, somewhere, for these Gracies. It made him feel a bit
remorseful, as if he and his sort had left something undone.
The house-physician said that Gracie's hold upon life was a mystery
and a miracle; by all the laws she should have been gone some months
since. She had certainly taken her time about dying! Her little,
sharp, immature face had lost all earthliness; only the eyes were
alive. They looked at Vandervelde gratefully. He had been very kind,
and Gracie was trying to thank him.
"Good-by," said Gracie. "You been white. Tell _him_--I couldn't
never forget him." She put out a claw of a hand, and the big man
"Is there--anything else I can do for you, Gracie? Isn't there
something you'd like?" The business of seeing Gracie go wasn't at
Her eyes of a sudden sparkled. She smiled.
"There's one thing I been wanting awful bad. But I ain't sure I
ought to ask."
"Tell me, my child, tell me."
"I want to see _her_," said Gracie, unexpectedly.
"His wife. I got no right to ast, but I want somethin' awful to see
his wife. Just once before I--I go, I want to see her."
Vandervelde felt bewildered. He had never spoken of Gracie to
Marcia, or to Anne. They were so far removed from this poor little
derelict that he was not sure they would understand. He said after a
moment's painful reflection:
"My poor child, I will see what I can do. But if I--that is, if
she--" He paused, not knowing exactly how to put his dilemma into
words without wounding her. But Gracie understood.
"You mean if she won't come? That's what I want to know," said she,
enigmatically. So weak was she that with the words on her lips she
dropped into sudden slumber. He stood looking down upon her
irresolutely. Then he tiptoed away, meeting at the door the
"How long?" asked the lawyer, jerkily.
"Probably until morning. Or at any minute," said the doctor,
indifferently. He thought it the best thing Gracie could do.
Vandervelde nodded. Then, moved by one of those impulses under the
influence of which the most conservative and careful people do
things that astonish nobody more than themselves, he got into his
car and went after Anne Champneys.
* * * * *
Anne was for the moment alone. The spring dusk had just fallen, and
she was glad to sit for a breathing-space in the shadowy room.
Berkeley Hayden had just left. His visit had been momentous, and as
a result she was shaken to the depths. She had come face to face
with destiny, and she was called upon to make a decision.
For the first time Hayden had broken the rigid rule of conduct he
had set for himself. He felt that he could endure no more. He had to
know. They had chatted pleasantly, idly. But of a sudden Berkeley
had risen from his chair, gone to the window, looked out, turned and
"Anne," said he, directly, "what are you going to do about Peter
She started as if she had received an electric shock. After a
moment, looking at him with a confused and startled stare, she
"W-why do you ask!"
"I have to know," said Hayden, and his voice trembled. "You must be
aware, Anne, that I love you. I have loved you from the first moment
of our meeting. You are the only woman I have ever really wished to
marry. That is why I must ask you: What are you going to do about
"I--I don't know," said she, twisting her fingers.
"Do you fancy you might be able to love him,--later?"
"No," said she, violently. "No!"
"Why, then, do you not have this abominable marriage annulled?" he
demanded. "I know nothing of Champneys, except that he's an
artist,--and, truth forces me to say, a great one. But if he doesn't
love you, if you do not love him, do you think anything but misery
is ahead for you both, if you decide to carry out the terms of that
promise extorted from you?"
She shrank back in her chair. She made no reply, and Hayden came and
stood directly before her, looking down at her.
"And I--am I nothing to you Anne? I love you. What of me, Anne?"
"What can I say?" said she, falteringly. "I am not free."
"If you were free, would you marry me? For that is what I am asking
you to do,--free yourself, and marry me."
She lifted her troubled eyes. "If I were free," she said, "if I were
free--Berkeley, give me time to consider this. It isn't only the
annulling of my marriage to a man I had never seen until the day I
married him, and have never seen since,--it's the breaking of my
promise to Uncle Chadwick--" They were in the library, and she
looked up at the portrait above the mantel. Hayden's glance followed
"He had no right to extort any such promise from you!" he cried.
"Anne, think it over! Weigh Peter Champneys and me in the balance.
And,--let the best man win, Anne. Will you?"
She regarded him steadfastly. "Yes," she said.
"And when you have decided, you will let me know?"
"I will let you know," said she, smiling faintly.
Berkeley took her hand and kissed it. He looked deep into her eyes.
Then he left her. He had been very quiet, but his passion for her
glowed in his eyes, rang in his voice, and was in the lips that
kissed her palm.
She had not been in the least thrilled by it, but she was not
displeased. She liked him. As for loving him, she didn't think it
was really in her to love anybody. Looking back upon her youthful
infatuation for Glenn Mitchell, she smiled at herself twistedly.
She knew now that she had been in love with the bright shadow of
But, she reflected, if she did not love Hayden, she respected him,
she was proud of him; he represented all that was best and most
desirable in her present life. Life with Berkeley Hayden wouldn't be
empty. And life as she faced it now was as empty as a shell that has
lost even the faintest echo of the sea. Despite its outward glitter,
its mother-of-pearl sheen, she was beginning to be more and more
aware of its innate hollowness. Her young and healthy nature
cried out against its futility. She was in the May morning of her
existence, and yet the joy of youth eluded her.
She had, perhaps, one more year of freedom. Then,--Peter Champneys.
Berkeley might well ask what she was going to do about it! Was she
to accept as final that contract which would make her the unloved
wife of an unloved husband? Now that she had grown somewhat older
and considerably wiser, now that her horizon had widened, her sense
of values broadened, she perceived that she owed to herself, to her
sacredest instincts, the highest duty. She did not like to break her
pledged word; but that pledge wronged Berkeley, wronged her, wronged
Her feeling toward that unknown husband was one of stark terror, a
sick dislike that had grown stronger with the years. In her mind he
remained unchanged. She saw him as the gawky, shrinking boy, his
lips apart, his eyes looking at her with uncontrollable aversion.
Oh, no! Life with Peter Champneys was unthinkable! There remained,
then, Berkeley Hayden. It wasn't unpleasant to think of Berkeley
Hayden. It made one feel safe, and assured; there was a glamour of
gratified pride about it,--Nancy Simms,--Mrs. Peter Champneys,--Mrs.
Berkeley Hayden. A little smile touched her lips.
Into these not unpleasant musings Mr. Jason Vandervelde irrupted
himself, with the astounding request that she come with him now,
immediately, to a hospital where a girl unknown to her prayed to see
her. Hoichi had turned the lights on upon Mr. Vandervelde's
entrance, and Anne looked at her visitor wonderingly.
"I do sound wild," admitted Jason, "but if you could have seen the
poor thing's face when she asked to see you--Anne, she'll be dead
before morning." The big man's glance was full of entreaty.
"But if she doesn't know me, why on earth should she wish to see
me,--at such a time?" asked Anne, still more astonished.
Flounderingly Vandervelde tried to tell her. A questionable girl, to
whom Peter Champneys had been kind,--she couldn't exactly gather
how. Dying in a hospital, and before she went wishing to see Peter
Peter Champneys's wife, fortunately for herself, was still too near
and close to the plain people to consider such a request an
outrageous impertinence, to be refused as a matter of course. The
terrible power of money had not come to her soon enough to make her
consider herself of different and better clay than her fellow
mortals. She wasn't haughty. The heart she was not supposed to
possess stirred uncomfortably. She looked at Vandervelde
"You wish me to go?"
"I leave that to you entirely," said he, uncomfortably. "But," he
blurted, "I think it would be mighty decent of you."
"I will go," she said.
When they reached the hospital, the blonde person was with Gracie.
The blonde person had been crying, and it had not improved her
appearance. Her nose looked like a pink wedge driven into the white
triangle of her face. Screens had been placed around the bed. A
priest with a rosy, good-humored face was just leaving.
Gracie turned her too-large eyes upon Peter Champneys's wife with a
sort of unearthly intensity, and Anne Champneys looked down at her
with a certain compassion. Anne had a bourgeois sense of
respectability, and she had involuntarily stiffened at sight of the
blonde drab sitting by the bedside, staring at her with sodden
eyes. She hadn't expected the blonde. She ignored her and looked,
instead, at Gracie. One could be decently sorry for Gracie.
A faint frown puckered Gracie's brows. Her hand in the blonde
person's tightened its grasp. After a moment she said gravely:
"Yes," said Anne, mechanically. "I came. You wished to see me?" Her
tone was inquiring.
"I wanted to see if you was good enough--for _him_," said the
gutter-candle, as if she were throwing a light into the secret
places of Anne Champneys's soul. "You ain't. But you could be."
Vandervelde had the horrid sensation as of walking in a nightmare.
He wished somebody in mercy would wake him up.
Anne's brows came together. She bent upon Gracie one of her long,
straight, searching looks.
"Thank you--for comin'," murmured Gracie. "You got a heart." Her
"I am glad I came, if it pleases you to see me," said Anne. "Is that
all you wished to say to me!"
"I wanted to see--if you was good enough for _him_," murmured Gracie
again. "You ain't. But remember what I'm tellin' you: you could
be." Her eyes closed. She fell into a light slumber, holding the
blonde person's hand. Vandervelde touched Anne on the arm, and they
As they drove home Vandervelde told her, as well as he could, all
that the little wrecked vessel which was now nearing its last harbor
had told him. He was deeply moved. He said, patting her hand.
"It was decent of you to come. You're a little sport, Anne."
For a while she was silent. Peter Champneys, then, was capable of
kindness. He could do a gentle and generous deed. And perhaps he
also was finding the heavy chain of his promise to his uncle, of his
marriage to herself, galling and wearisome. She reached a woman's
"I'm going to be a better sport," said she. "I'm going to reward
Peter Champneys by setting him free. I shall have our marriage
Peter Champneys was packing up for a summer's work on the coast when
he received Vandervelde's letter, advising him that Mrs. Champneys
had instituted proceedings to have her marriage annulled. The
attorney added that by this action on Anne's part the entire
Champneys estate reverted to him, Peter Champneys, with the
exception of fifty thousand dollars especially allotted to Anne by
Chadwick Champneys's will. Vandervelde took it for granted there
would be no opposition from Peter. He hoped his client would find it
possible to visit America shortly, there being certain details he
should see to in person.
Opposition? Peter's sensation was one of overwhelming relief. This
was lifting from his spirit the weight of an intolerable burden: he
felt profoundly grateful to that red-haired woman who had had the
courage to take her fate in her own hands, forego great wealth, and
sever a bond that threatened to become an iron yoke. He couldn't but
respect her for that; he determined that she shouldn't be too great
a loser. He thought she should have half the estate, at the very
He had never had the commercial mind. He had never asked that the
allowance settled upon him by his uncle should be increased. As his
own earnings far outstripped his modest needs, that allowance had
been used to allay those desperate cases of want always confronting
the kindly in a great city. The Champneys estate back there in
America had bulked rather negligently in his mind, obscured and
darkened by the formidable figure of the wife who went with it. She
had loomed so hugely in the foreground that other considerations had
been eclipsed. And now this ogress, moved thereto God knew why, had
of a sudden opened her hand and set him free!
That strenuous and struggling childhood of his, whose inner life
and aspirations had been so secret and so isolated, had taken the
edge off his gregariousness. He did not continuously feel the
herd-necessity to rub shoulders with others. The creative mind is
essentially isolated. Peter loved his fellows with a quiet, tolerant
affection, but he remained as it were to himself, standing a little
apart. His heart was like a deep, still, hidden pool, in which a few
stars only have room to shine.
A successful man, he had been romantically adored by many idle women
and angled for by many an interested one. At times he had lightly
lent himself to those amiable French arrangements of good
comradeship which end naturally and without bitterness, leaving both
parties with a satisfied sense of having received very good measure.
He had never been able to deceive himself that he loved. He had
loved Denise, but there had been in his affection for her more of
compassion than passion, as Denise herself had known. She remained
in his memory like a perfume. That had been his one serious liaison.
But the woman he could really love with his fullest powers, and to
whom he could give his best, had not yet appeared.
Mrs. Hemingway had been troubled by his celibacy. She had persisted
in her desire to have him marry young, his wife being some one of
her girl friends. She wished to see Peter set up an establishment,
which would presently center around a nursery full of adorable
babies who would bring with them that tender and innocent happiness
young children alone are able to confer. To dispel these pleasant
day-dreams of hers, Peter had found it necessary to tell her of his
Mrs. Hemingway was astonished, a little chagrined, but not hopeless.
He should bring his young wife to Paris. To make her understand
_that_ marriage as it really was, to explain his own attitude toward
it, Peter made a swift and frightfully accurate little sketch of
Nancy Simms as she had appeared to him that memorable morning.
His friend was appalled. It took Peter some time to explain his
uncle to Mrs. Hemingway. At the best, she thought, he had been
insane. Not even the fact that Peter was co-heir to the Champneys
fortune consoled her for what she considered a block to his
happiness, a blight upon his life. The more she thought about that
marriage, the more she disliked it; and as the time approached for
Peter literally to sacrifice himself upon the altar, Mrs. Hemingway
grew more and more perturbed, though she wasn't so troubled about it
as Emma Campbell was. Emma's terror of "dat gal" had grown with the
years. Neither of them ventured to question Peter, but Emma Campbell
began to have frequent spells of "wrastlin' wid de sperit," and her
long, lugubrious "speretuals" were dismal enough to set one's teeth
on edge. She would howl piercingly:
"Befo' dis time anothuh yeah,
I ma-ay be gone,
Een some ole lone-some graveyahd,
O Lawd, ho-ow long?"
She had left the high Montmartre cottage and had come down to keep
house for Peter, his being a very simple menage. Oddly, the denizens
of the Quartier didn't faze her in the least. She chuckled over
them, an old negro woman's sinful chuckle. She made no slightest
attempt to conquer the French language, which she didn't in the
least admire. She learned the equivalents for a few phrases of her
own,--"I hongry," "How much?" "Gimme dat," and "Mistuh Peter gone
out," and on this slight foundation she managed to keep a fairly
firm footing. The frequenters of Peter's studio were delighted with
Emma Campbell; they recognized her artistic availability, and she
and her black cat were borrowed liberally.
As a rule, she was willing to lend herself to art, and was a patient
model, until one rash young man took it into his head, that he must
have Emma Campbell as a favorite old attendant upon the _Queen of
Sheba_ he proposed to paint. He was a very earnest young German,
that painter, speaking fairly good English. Emma had liked him more
than most; but her faith received a blow from which it never
recovered. That young man wished to paint her _au naturel_--her,
Emma Campbell, who had been a member in good standing of the Young
Sons and Daughters of Zion, the Children of Mary Magdalen, and the
Burying Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Rising Star in the
Bonds of Love! In the altogether! Emma Campbell gasped like a hooked
fish. She made a nozzle of her mouth and protruded her eyes. She
"I bawn nekked, but I ain't had nuttin' to do wid dat. Dat de fust
en de last time I show up wid mah rind out o' doors. I been livin'
in clo'es evuh sence, en I 'speck to die in clo'es."
The artist, who wanted Emma in his picture, tried to make her
understand. He reasoned with her manfully:
"Ach, silly nigger-woman! Clothes, clothes! What are clothes! See,
now: you are the Queen of Sheba's old slave. Your large black feet
and legs are bare, a glittering amulet swings between your withered
breasts of an old African, you wear heavy bracelets and anklets,
around your lean flanks is a little, thin striped apron, and you
hold in your hand the great fan of peacock feathers! Magnificent!
You are the queen's old slave, imbecile!"
"Is I? Boy, is you evuh hear tell o' Mistuh Abe Linkum? Aftuh
Gin'ral Sherman bun down de big house smack en smoove, en tote off
all de cow en mule en hawg en t'ing, en dem Yankees tief all de
fowl, en we-all run lak rabbit, Mistuh Linkum done sen' word we 's
free. En jus' lak Mistuh Linkum say, hit 's so; aftuh us git shet o'
Gin'ral Sherman, we 's free. All dat time I been a-wearin' clo'es,
en now you come en tarrygate me, sayin' I got to stan' up in de
nekked rind en wave fedders 'cause I in slaveryment? You bes' ain't
let Mistuh Peter Champneys hear you talkin' lak dat!"
The bewildered and baffled young man raved in three languages, but
Emma Campbell flatly refused either to be in "slaveryment" or in the
"nekked rind." Visions of herself being caught and painted
bare-legged, with a trifling little dab of an apron tied around her
waist even as one ties a bit of ribbon around the cat's neck, and of
this scandal being ferreted out by the deacons, sisters, and
brethren, of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Riverton, South
Carolina, haunted her and made her projeck darkly. When she ventured
to voice her opinion to Mist' Peter, he clapped her on the back and
grinned. Emma Campbell began to look with a jaundiced eye upon art
and the votaries of art.
She was relieved when Peter decided to spend the summer on the
coast; she was a coast woman herself, and she longed for the smell
of the sea. And then, to add to her joy, had come this last,
astonishing news: "dat gal" was going to divorce Mist' Peter! That
incomprehensible marriage would be done away with, that grim,
red-headed dragoness would go out of their lives! Emma's speretuals
took a more hopeful trend; and Peter whistled while he worked.
He had written Vandervelde that he couldn't forego his summer's
work, but would probably be in New York that autumn. In the
meantime, let Vandervelde look after his interests as usual and see
to it that Mrs. Champneys was more adequately and liberally provided
for. He forgot to inquire as to the real value of his possessions.
He did say to himself soberly:
"Jingo! This thing sounds like money--as if I were a mighty rich
man! I'll have to do something about this!"
But he wasn't overly upset, or even very greatly interested. His
real concern had never been money; it had been, like Rousseau's and
Millet's, to make the manifestation of life his first thought, to
make a man really breathe, a tree really vegitate.
And so he went to the coast, as happy as a school-boy on a holiday.
The sea fascinated him, and the faces of the men who go down to the
sea in ships. It was going to be the happiest and most fruitful
summer he had known for years. He bade the Hemingways a gay
farewell. Mrs. Hemingway, he noted, looked at him speculatively. Her
matrimonial plans for him had revived.
He worked gloriously. He ate like a school-boy, and slept like one,
dreamlessly. What was happening in the outside world didn't interest
him; what he had to do was to catch a little of the immortal and yet
shifting loveliness of the world and imprison it on a piece of
canvas. He didn't get any of the newspapers. When he smoked at night
with his friend the cure, a gentle, philosophic old priest who had
known a generation of painter-folk and loved this painter with a
fatherly affection, he heard passing bits of world gossip. The
priest took several papers, and liked to talk over with his artist
friend what he had read. It was the priest, pale and perturbed, who
told him that war was upon the world. Peter didn't believe it. In
his heart he thought that the fear of war with her great neighbor
had become a monomania with the French.
"It will be a bad war, the worst war the world has ever known. We
shall suffer frightfully: but in the end we shall win," said the
cure, walking up and down before his cottage. He fingered his beads
as he spoke.
France began to mobilize. And then Peter Champneys realized that the
French fear hadn't been so much a monomania as a foreknowledge. The
thing stunned him. He wished to protest, to cry out against the
monstrousness of what was happening. But his voice was a reed in a
hurricane; he was a straw in a gigantic whirlpool. He felt his
He couldn't work any more; he couldn't sleep; he couldn't eat. There
is a France that artists love more than they may ever love any
woman. Peter Champneys knew that France. Nobody hated and loathed
war more than he, born and raised in a land, and among a people,
stripped and darkened by it. And that had been but a drop in the
bucket, compared with what was now threatening France. He couldn't
idly stand by and see that happen! He thought of all that France had
given him, all that France meant to him. The faces of all those
comrades of the Quartier rose before him; and gently, wistfully
appealing, the sweet face of little lost Denise. He packed his
paintings finished and unfinished, and went to tell his friend the
cure farewell, bending his pagan knees to receive the old man's
blessing. The cure, too, was part of that which is the spirit of
They were enlisting in the Quartier. Peter was one of very many.
When the preliminaries were passed and he had put on the uniform of
a private soldier of the republic, he felt rather a fool. He wasn't
in the least enthusiastic. There was a thing to be done, and he
meant to help in its accomplishment; but he wasn't going to shout
over it or pretend that he liked doing it.
When he went to tell Mrs. Hemingway good-by, just before his
regiment left, she put her arms around him and kissed him. She was
going to stay in Paris, and Emma Campbell would stay in her house.
Emma Campbell had been very silent. She had acute and very
unpleasant recollections of one war. She didn't understand what this
one was about, but she didn't like it. And when she saw Peter in
uniform, saying good-by, going away to get himself killed, maybe,
she broke into a whimper:
"Oh, Miss Maria! Oh, Miss Maria! Look at we-all chile! Oh, my Gawd,
Miss Maria, we-all 's chile 's gwine to de war!"
Peter put his arm around her shoulder. His face twitched. Emma said
in a low voice: "I help Miss Maria wean 'im, en he bit me on de
knuckles wid 'is fust toofs. Nevuh had no trouble wid 'im, 'cept to
dust 'is britches wunst in a w'ile. Ah, Lawd! I sho did love dat
chile! Use to rake chips for de wash-pot fire, en sit roun' en wait
for ole Emma Campbell to fix 'is sweet 'taters for 'im. Me en Miss
Maria's chile. En now he soldier en gwine to de war! Me en 'im far
fum home, en he gwine to de war!" She threw her white apron over her
head. Emma hated to have anybody see her cry.
So Peter Champneys went to the war, along with the other artists of
France, and was made use of in many curious ways. Presently he was
taken out of his squad, and set at other work where the quick and
sure eye, and deft, trained hand, of the painter were needed.
He saw unbelievable, unimaginable things, things so unspeakable
that his soul seemed to die within him. The word _glory_ made him
shudder. There was a duty to do, and he did it to the best of his
ability, without noise, without fear. Wherever he looked around him,
other men were doing the same thing. Every now and then, after some
particularly nightmarish experiences, he would be called out--he
himself questioned why--and kissed on both cheeks, and a medal
or so would be pinned upon him. He accepted it all politiely,
apathetically; it was all a part of the game. And the game itself
seemed never-ending. It went on and on, and on.
It seemed to him that he wasn't Peter Champneys the artist any more,
the lover of beauty, the man who was to rebuild the house of his
forebears, and for whom a great fortune was waiting over there in
America. He was just a soul in torment, living his bit of hell,
hating it with a cold impatience, an incurable anger. One thing only
kept him from losing all hope for mankind: at times he had piercing,
blinding glimpses of the soul of plain men laid bare. With torment,
a humanity larger even than his art was born in him.
At the end of the third year a sniper got him. He was wounded so
badly that at first it was thought a leg would have to be amputated.
But even in that hideous welter of the nations, Peter Champneys
wasn't unknown. Overburdened and busy as they were, doctors and
nurses fought for the life of the American artist. He came to to
hear a poilu in his ward praising the saints that it was _his_ hand
and not the painter's that had gone, and another say philosophically
that if one of two _had_ to be blinded, he was glad M. Champneys's
eyes had been saved.
"You will see for us, Monsieur," said he cheerfully. And in his
heart Peter swore to himself that he would. He would see for the
plain people, the common people of God.
As soon as he was able to be moved, the Hemingways and Emma Campbell
came and took him home. Now, a spirit like his cannot see and hear
and know such things as Peter had been experiencing for three years,
without showing signs of the conflict. Peter had changed physically
as well as spiritually. His face had paled to an ivory tone, the
features had a cameo sharpness and purity of outline; cheeks and
chin were covered with a heavy, jet-black beard,--as if his
countenance were in morning for its lost boyishness. And out of this
thin, quiet, black-haired, black-bearded face looked a pair of
golden eyes of an almost intolerable clarity. _Don Pedro_ Mrs.
Hemingway called him laughingly, and _El Conquistador_. Secretly,
she was immensely proud of him.
Peter didn't recuperate as quickly and completely as had been hoped.
He was weary with an almost hopeless weariness, and Mrs. Hemingway,
who watched him with the affection of an older sister, was worried
about his condition. She didn't like his apathy. He was as gentle,
as considerate, and even more exquisitely sympathetic than of
old. But in all things that concerned himself, he was quietly
disinterested. She and Hemingway had several long talks. Then
Hemingway began to get busy. Presently he suggested, that it might
be a very good idea if Peter should go over to America for a while,
and look after those interests to which he hadn't given a thought
since he had put on a uniform. After all, Hemingway reminded him,
his uncle had placed considerable trust in him. It was only fair now
that Chadwick Champneys's wishes should come in for at least a
little attention, wasn't it?
Peter pondered this idea, and found it just. Besides, he wasn't
unwilling to go back to America now that he didn't have to face that
girl. He wondered, vaguely, what had become of her. Had she found
happiness for herself? He hoped so. Yes, he'd rather like to see New
York again. He couldn't be of any further use here now, and he
couldn't do his own work, for all inspiration seemed to have left
him. He felt empty, arid, useless.
He might just as well act upon Hemingway's suggestion, and find out
how things were over there. And after he'd seen Vandervelde, he'd go
down south and visit that tiny brown house on the cove, and the
River Swamp, and Neptune's old cabin, and the cemetery alongside the
Riverton Road. It seemed to him that he smelled the warm, salt-water
odors of the coast country again, saw the gray moss swaying in the
river breeze, heard a mocking-bird break into sudden song. A
homesick longing for Carolina came upon him. Oh, for the flat coast
country, the marsh between blue water and blue sky, the swamp bays
in flower, a Red Admiral fluttering above a thistle in a corner of
an old worm-fence!
Emma Campbell discovered this homesick longing in herself, too. Emma
was hideously afraid of the passage across, but she was willing to
risk it, just to get "over home" once more. She thought of herself
sitting in her place in Mount Zion Church, with ole Br'er Shadrach
Timmons liftin' up de tune, fat Sist' Mindy Sawyer fanning herself
with a palm-leaf fan and swaying back and forth in time to the
speretual, and busybody Deacon Williams rolling his eye to see that
nobody took too long a swallow out of the communion cup he passed
around. She thought of possum parties, with accompaniments of sweet
'taters and possum gravy. Her lip trembled, tears rolled down her
black cheeks. She had been living in the midst of air raids, her
ears had been stunned with the roar of _Big Bertha_. Now she nevuh
wanted to hear nuttin' louder dan bull-frawg in de river so long as
she lived. She was sorry to leave Mrs. Hemingway, for whom she had
acquired a great affection. And she had one real grief: Satan had
gone to the heaven of black cats, so she couldn't take him back to
Carolina. She wouldn't replace the dear, funny, cuddly beastie with
a French cat. French cats were amiable animals, very nice in their
way, but they weren't, they couldn't be, "we-all's folks" as the
Carolina cat had been.
Hemingway arranged everything. And so one morning, Peter Champneys
walking with a stick, and old Emma Campbell, stiffly erect and
rustling in a black silk frock that Mrs. Hemingway had bought for
her, turned their faces to America once more.
Vandervelde, who met them in response to Hemingway's cable, knew
Emma Campbell at sight, but failed to recognize in the tall,
distinguished, very foreign-looking gentleman, the gangling Peter
Champneys he had seen married to Nancy Simms. He kept staring at
Peter, and the corners of his mouth curled more than usual. And he
liked him, with the instantaneous liking of one large-natured man
for another. Vandervelde had never approved of the annulment of the
Champneys marriage, although Marcia did. Not even the fact that Anne
was going to marry Berkeley Hayden, had been able to convince
Vandervelde that the bringing to naught of Chadwick Champneys's
plans could be right. And looking at Peter Champneys now, he was
more than ever convinced that a mistake had been made. That little
gutter-girl, Gracie, had been right about Peter Champneys; and Anne
had been wrong.
Vandervelde asked, presently, if Peter wished to see the reporters.
Once they scented him, they would be clamoring at his heels. And
then Peter learned to his surprise and annoyance that he was
something of a hero and very much of a celebrity. His expression
made Vandervelde chuckle. But, the attorney demanded, could a famous
artist, a man who for distinguished and unusual service had been
decorated by two governments, the heir to the Champneys millions,
and one of the figures of a social romance, hope to hide his light
under a bushel basket? Nothing doing! He was a figure of
international importance, a lion whom the public wanted to hear
Peter shuddered. The thought of being interviewed by one of those
New York super-reporters made him feel limp. Couldn't they
understand he didn't want to talk? Didn't they understand that those
who had really seen, those who knew, weren't doing any talking?
Why,--they couldn't! As for himself, his nerves were rasped raw.
Luckily, Vandervelde understood.
He asked Vandervelde a few perfunctory questions, and learned that
things were very much all right. He signed certain papers presented
to him. Then he asked abruptly if Mrs. Champneys had been as
liberally provided for as she should have been, and learned that
Mrs. Champneys had flatly refused to accept a penny more than the
actual amount given her by Chadwick Champneys's will. Vandervelde
added, after a moment, that he thought Mrs. Champneys intended to
remarry. At that Peter looked somewhat surprised. He thought him a
bold man who of his own free will ordained to marry Nancy Simms
Champneys! He murmured, politely, that he hoped she would be happy,
but failed to ask the name of his successor. What was Hecuba to him
or he to Hecuba?
He was in Vandervelde's office, then, and the telephone began to
ring. Three several times Vandervelde answered the questions where,
when, how might the reporter at the other end of the wire get in
touch with Mr. Peter Champneys. Had he really returned to New York?
Been decorated several times, hadn't he? What was his latest
picture? What were his present and future plans? Could Mr.
Vandervelde give any information? In each case Mr. Vandervelde said
he couldn't. He hung up the receiver and looked at the celebrity,
who seemed gloomy.
The lawyer was a tower of strength. He started Emma Campbell, who
didn't want to linger in New York, on her way to Riverton. Emma
wanted to get home as fast as the fastest train could carry her.
But Peter didn't want to go back to Riverton--yet. And then
Vandervelde made a suggestion which rather pleased Peter. Why not go
to a little place he knew, a quiet and very beautiful place on the
Maine coast? Very few people knew of its existence. Vandervelde had
stumbled upon it on a motor trip a few years before, and he was
rather jealous of his discovery. The people were sturdy, independent
Maine folk, the climate and scenery unsurpassed; Peter would be well
looked after by the old lady to whom Vandervelde would recommend
him. And to make perfectly sure that he'd be undisturbed, to drop
more completely out of the world and find the rest he needed, why
not call himself, say, Mr. Jones, or Mr. Smith, letting Peter
Champneys the artist hide for a while behind that homely disguise?
Vandervelde almost stammered in his eagerness. His eyes shone, his
face flushed. He leaned across his desk, watching Peter with a
Peter liked the idea of the Maine coast. Sea and forest, open
spaces, quietude; plain folk going about their own business, letting
him go about his. Long days to loaf through, in which to reorganize
his existence in accordance with his newer values. Isolation was the
balm his spirit craved. Let him have that, let it help him to become
his own man again, and he'd be ready to face life and work like a
"You'll go?" Vandervelde's voice was studiously restrained; he had
lowered his lids to hide the eagerness of his eyes.
"I think such a place as you describe is exactly what I need," said
"I'm quite sure it is. And the sooner you go, the better."
Peter got up and walked around the office. A typewriter was clacking
monotonously, the telephone bell was constantly ringing. Peter
turned his head restlessly.
Vandervelde had made his suggestion at precisely the right moment.
Peter felt grateful to him. Very nice man, Vandervelde. Kind as he
could be, too! One liked and trusted him. Clever of him to have so
instantly understood just what Peter most craved!
"I quite agree with you," said Peter. "I'll start to-night."
Vandervelde leaned back in his chair. His heart thumped. He drew a
deep breath, the corners of his mouth curling noticeably, and beamed
at Peter Champneys through his glasses. He said aloud, cheerfully,
"Well, why not?"
Grandma Baker's cottage formed the extreme right horn of the
crescent that was the village. The middle of the crescent backed up
against a hill, the horns dipped toward the shore-line and the
water. Near Grandma Baker's front gate were currant bushes, and a
path bordered with dahlias and gillyflowers led to the door, which
had two stone slabs for steps, and on both sides of which were large
lilac bushes,--she called them "lay-locks." Behind the house were
apple-trees, and more currant bushes, as well as gooseberries and
raspberries. A herb garden grew under her kitchen windows, so that
her kitchen and pantry always smelled of thyme and wintergreen, and
her bedrooms were fragrant with lavender.
The quiet gentleman to whom she had given an upper room that looked
out upon woods and waters, a bit of pasture, a stretch of coast, and
a pale blue sky full of sudsy clouds, thought that Mr. Jason
Vandervelde's fervent praises hadn't done justice to this bit of
untouched Eden tucked away in a bend of the Maine coast. It gave him
what his heart craved--beauty, fragrance, stillness. A few
weather-beaten old men, digging clams, dragging lobster-pots, or
handling a boat. A few quiet women, busy with household affairs. No
one to have to talk to. No one to ask him questions. There was but
one other visitor in the village, Grandma Baker told him, a young
widow,--"a nice common sort of a woman," who was staying up the
street with Mis' Thatcher.
Mr. Johnston, as the gentleman called himself, hadn't seen the "nice
common sort of a woman" yet, though he had been here a whole week,
and he wasn't in the least curious about her. He didn't know that
when you're a "nice common sort of a woman" to these Maine folk,
you're receiving high praise from sturdy democrats. The phrase, to
him, called up a good, homely creature, amiably innocuous, placidly
Mr. Johnston slept in a four-poster, under a patchwork quilt that
aroused poignant memories. At his own request he ate in a corner of
the big kitchen, near the window opening upon the herb garden.
Already he had struck up a firm friendship with his brisk, strong
"Fit in the war, didn't ye?" asked the old lady, genially.
Mr. Johnston's face took on a look of weariness and obstinacy.
Grandma Baker smiled cheerfully.
"Tell the truth and shame the devil," she chirped. "You fit, but you
needn't be scared I'll ask you any questions about it. I mind Abner,
my husband, comin' back from Virginia after he'd fit the hull
dratted Civil War straight through and helped win it. And he
wouldn't open his trap. Couldn't bear havin' to talk about it. Some
men's like that. Ornery, o' course, but you got to humor 'em. You
put me a hull lot in mind o' my Abner." And she looked with great
kindliness upon the taciturn person known to her as Mr. Johnston.
True to her word, she asked him no questions. She fed him, and let
He was so weary, at first, that he didn't want to do anything but
lie under a tree idly for long drowsy hours, as he had lain under
the trees on the edge of the River Swamp years before. This Maine
landscape, so rugged and yet so tender, had a brooding and
introspective calm, as of a serene and strong old man who has lived
a vigorous, simple, and pure life, and to the jangled nerves and
tired mind of Peter Champneys it was like the touch of a healing
hand. With every day he felt his strength of mind and body
returning, and the restless perturbation that had tormented him
receding, fading. These green and gracious trees, bathed in a lucent
light, this sweet sea-wind, and the voice of the waters, a voice
monotonously soothing, helped him to find himself,--and to find
himself newer, fresher, a more vital personality. This newer Peter
Champneys was not going to be, perhaps, so easy-going a chap. He was
more insistent, he was sterner; to the art-conscience, in itself a
troublesome possession, he was adding the race-conscience, which
questions, demands, and will have nothing short of the truth. He had
been forced to see things as they are, things stripped of pleasant
trappings and made brutally bare; and his conscience and his
courage now arose to face facts. Any misery, rather than be slave to
shams! Any grief to bear, any price to pay, but let him possess his
own soul, let him have the truth!
He could not sit in judgment upon himself as an artist only; he had
to take himself seriously as a very wealthy man in an hour when very
wealthy men stood, so to speak, before the tribunal of the
conscience of mankind. He could not afford to be crushed by the
burden of much money. Neither could he ignore the stern question:
what was he going to do with the Champneys wealth? He wished that
that red-headed woman had taken half of it off his hands!
The Champneys money made him very thoughtful this morning, walking
with his hands behind his back, his head bare to the wind. The water
rippled in the sunlight. Out on the horizon a solitary sail
glimmered. The semicircle of village houses resembled the white
beads of a broken necklace, lying exactly where they'd fallen. He
turned a small headland, and the village vanished.
He had a pleasant sense of being alone with this rocky coast, with
its salty-sweet wind, its blue water, its limitless sky, from which
poured a flood of clear, pale golden sunlight. And then, as if out
of the heart of them all, came a figure immensely alive, the light
focusing upon her as if she were the true meaning of the picture in
which she appeared; as if this background were not accidental, but
had been chosen and arranged for her with delicate and deliberate
He thought he had never seen any woman's body so superbly free in
its movement: she had the grace of a birch stirred by a spring wind.
The poise of her shoulders, the sweep of her garments blown by the
sea-breeze, the joyous and vigorous grace of her whole attitude,
reminded him of the winged Victory. So might that splendid vision
have walked upon the glad Greek coast in the bright light of the
The woman walked swiftly, lightly, her head held high, her long
loose hair blown about her like flame. Where the rough path narrowed
between two large boulders, he had paused to allow her to pass; and
so they came face to face, he the taller by a head. She lifted her
cool, gray-green eyes that had in them the silvery sparkle of the
sea, and met his golden gaze. Her face framed in her flaming mane
was warmly pale, the brow thoughtful, the mouth virginal. For a long
moment they regarded each other steadily, wonderingly; and in that
single moment the eternal miracle occurred by which life and the
face of the world changed for them.
That long, clear, grave gaze pierced her heart like a golden
poniard. He was of a thin body and visage, but the effect was of
virility, not weakness,--as if the soul of him, like a blade in a
scabbard, had fretted the body fine. There was a quiet stateliness
in his bearing, a simple and unaffected dignity, to which the thick,
blue-black hair, the foreign beard, and the aquiline features lent
an added touch of distinction. One was reminded of those dangerously
mild and rather sad faces of Spanish soldiers which look at one
from Velasquez's canvases. This man might wear a ruff and a velvet
doublet, or, better yet, a coat of mail, she reflected, instead of
the well-cut but rather worn gray tweeds that clothed him.
She was not conscious of her flying hair, or the wind-blown disorder
of her skirts. She was conscious, rather, that for the first time a
man was looking at her as from a height, and she was filled with a
beautiful astonishment, a sort of divine amazement, as if it were
toward this that always, inevitably, she had been moving,--and now
it was here! Her blood leaped to it, and went racing fierily through
her veins, as if there had been poured into it the elixir of life.
She was gloriously conscious of her youth and her womanhood. A quick
and vivid rush of warm blood stained her, brow to bosom. Her
every-day mind was saying, "It is the stranger who's staying at
Grandma Baker's--the gentleman who's been ill." But beyond and
behind her every-day mind, her heart was shouting, exultant,
ecstatic, and very sure: "It is You! It is You!"
In quick sympathy with that bright flush of hers the blood showed
for an instant in his pale face. He had been staring at her! An
agitation new to him, an emotion to which all others he had ever
experienced were childishly mild, filled him as the resistless sweep
of the sea at flood tide fills the shallows of the shores. Love did
not come to him gently and insidiously, but as with the overwhelming
rush of great waters. This, then, must be that "nice, common sort
of a woman" staying with the Widow Thatcher, at the other end of the
village--this woman clothed with the sun of her red hair, and with
the sea in her eyes! A smile curved his lips. His kindling glance
played over her like lightning, and said to her: "I know you. I have
always known you. Do you not recognize me? I am I,--and you are
Had he obeyed his instincts, he would have flung himself before her
and clasped her around the knees. Being a modern gentleman, he had
to stand aside, bowing, and let her pass. She, too, bowed slightly.
She went by with her quick and resilient tread, her cheek royally
red. A wind roared in her ears, her heart beat thickly.
When she had turned the little headland she paused, and
mechanically braided her hair. Her fingers shook, and she breathed
as if she had been running. The incredible, the unbelievable, had
pounced upon her as from a clear sky, and the world was never again
to be the same. She had been so sure, so safe, with her pleasant
life all mapped out before her, like the raked and swept paths of an
ordered and formal garden; a life in which reason and convention and
culture and wealth should rule, and from which tumultuous and
tormenting passions and disorderly emotions should be rigidly
excluded. In that ordered existence, she would be, if not happy, at
least satisfied and proud. And now! A strange man in passing had
looked into her eyes; love had come, and the gates of her formal
garden had been pulled down, wild nature threatened to invade and
overrun her trimmed and clipped borders and her smooth lawns.
The Widow Thatcher commented approvingly upon her fine color when
she appeared at the house.
"You just stay here a leetle mite longer, Mis' Riley, and you'll be
that changed you won't know yourself," said the kindly woman,
"I'm sure of that!" murmured her guest.
The red-haired lady who called herself Mrs. Riley--Riley had been
her mother's name--had been, up to this time, an altogether
satisfying guest, simple, friendly, with a sound and healthy
appetite, and well deserving that praiseful "nice, common sort of a
woman" bestowed upon her. Now, mysteriously, she changed. She wasn't
less friendly, but her appetite was capricious and she would fall
into reveries, sudden fits of gravity, sitting beside the window,
staring somberly out at the waters. She would snatch up her hat and
go out, get as far as the gate, and return to the house. Mrs.
Thatcher heard her pacing up and down her room, when she should have
been sound asleep. She would laugh, and then sigh upon the heels of
it, break into fitful singing, and fall into sudden silence in the
midst of her song.
"She's gettin' religion," the widow reflected. "The Spirit's workin'
on her. 'T ain't nothin' I can do except pray for her." And the
simple soul got on her knees and besought Heaven that the stranger
under her roof might "escape whatever trouble 't is that's
threatenin' her, O Lord, an' save her soul alive!"
Although the widow didn't know it, her guest had come to the
dividing of the ways. She had come to this quiet place to find
peace, to rest, to escape from the world for a breathing-space. And
in this quiet place that which had missed her in the great outside
world had come to her, the most tremendous of all powers had seized
upon her. The situation was not without a sly and ironical humor.
She wondered what Marcia would say if she should write to her: "I
have fallen in love at sight, hopelessly, irremediably, head over
ears, with, a strange man who passed me on the shore. He wears gray
tweeds. His name, I am told, is Johnston. That's all I know about
him, except that I seem to have known him since the beginning of all
things. He is as familiar to my heart as my blood is, and all he had
to do to make me love him was to look at me. Yes! I love him as I
could never love anybody but him. He's the one man."
She could fancy Marcia's astonishment, her shocked "Oh, but Anne,
there's Berkeley Hayden!"
And indeed, there was Berkeley Hayden!
When Anne had determined to have her marriage to Peter Champneys
annulled, Marcia had upheld her, though Jason hadn't liked it at
all. If he hadn't exactly opposed her course, he had tried to
dissuade her from it. But she had persisted, and as the case was
simple and quite clear her freedom was a foregone conclusion, though
there were, of course, the usual formalities, the usual wearisome
She had closed the Champneys house, and gone to Marcia, who wanted
her. Jason, too, had insisted that she should make her home with
them for the time being. And then had come the war, and she and
Marcia found themselves swept into the whirlpool of work it
involved. But not even the tremendous news that filled all the
newspapers had kept the Champneys romance from being featured. Her
case received very much more notice than pleased her. She was weary
of her own photographs, sick of the interest she aroused.